N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 48 new cases, Horizon and Vitalité return to orange alert level



Horizon and Vitalité health networks will return to the orange alert level Monday, citing a decrease in the number of new and active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including ICU admissions, across the province. Public Health reported 48 new cases and 41 recoveries Friday. There are now 556 active cases, up from 549 Thursday. Twenty-eight people are in hospital because of the virus, down from 31, including 17 in intensive care, an increase of one. The move to orange will mean an increase in services from the current red alert level, Vitalité said in a statement Friday. “Transitioning to the orange alert level means that the network believes it has the capacity to increase ambulatory care, medical imaging, and surgical services,” it said. If CUPE health-care workers go on strike, however, Vitalité “could have to quickly change its alert level [again],” it advised. A strike would have “direct or indirect impacts on its regular activities.” Officials are monitoring the situation “very closely.” Horizon said its switch to orange will be in place for at least two weeks and then be reassessed. Both regional health authorities will maintain their red alert level visitor restrictions, however. This means no visitors are allowed, with some exceptions, such as patients who are eligible for a designated support person. “This precaution is necessary to ensure the safety of patients, employees and doctors in a context where there are active outbreaks in some hospitals and several communities are dealing with community transmission,”  Vitalité  said. Horizon said that it will allow time to ensure COVID-19 cases continue to decrease, and that staffing resources remain stable to continue all services, from ambulatory care clinic visits to urgent and complex medical emergencies. “We understand restricting social visitation is difficult for our patients and loved ones, but this precaution remains necessary to limit the risk of COVID-19 spread in our facilities, especially as there are still local outbreaks and community transmission throughout the province,” Horizon’s interim president and CEO Dr. John Dornan said in a statement. Vitalité has been at the red alert level since Oct. 12. Horizon has been at the red phase since Oct. 13. The red alert level protocols allow the regional health authorities to redeploy staff and reduce non-essential services to maintain emergency services and ICUs, caring for COVID-19 patients and those who are critically ill. Expanded Zone 2 circuit breaker begins at 6 p.m. Most people who live in the Saint John region, Zone 2, will begin a two-week COVID-19 circuit breaker, starting at 6 p.m., with restrictions on private gatherings and non-essential travel between areas. There are no restrictions on fully vaccinated people gathering  at businesses, events and services where proof of full vaccination with a government-issued ID is required. Premier Blaine Higgs announced the new measure Thursday, citing concerns over an increase in new infections. In response to Friday’s numbers, Higgs described the “stability in cases” as positive. “We know that if we remove measures too quickly we could see a spike in hospitalizations, which is why circuit-breaker measures have been extended and expanded in the province to help further reduce the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19,” he said in a statement. To address the high number of COVID-19 transmissions in the Saint John region, a circuit breaker has been implemented for most of Zone 2 to limit the spread of the virus and reduce further hospitalizations. (Government of New Brunswick) The areas covered by the circuit breaker stretch west to New River Beach and Lepreau, north to Clarendon and Welsford, east to Head of Millstream and include all of the communities in Saint John and Kings counties. Havelock was already under a previous circuit breaker, which was scheduled to end at 6 p.m., but has been extended for at least seven days. The other areas affected by this circuit breaker include Zone 1, Moncton region, as far north as and including Sainte-Anne-de-Kent; the northern portion of Zone 3 from and including Deerville and Florenceville-Bristol, but excluding Hayesville and Parker Ridge, as well as all of Zone 4, the Edmundston region. The Campbellton region, Zone 5, is also under a circuit breaker, scheduled to end next Friday. “While we are making progress, it is important that everyone continue to follow the measures in place where they live,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement. “Every action you take, big and small, has an impact. I encourage you to make good choices so that your impact is a positive one.” Breakdown of new cases Of the 48 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Friday, 27 — or 56 per cent — are unvaccinated, 12 — or 25 per cent —  are partially vaccinated, and nine — or 19 per cent — are fully vaccinated. Of the 28 people in hospital, 17 are unvaccinated, three are partially vaccinated and eight are fully vaccinated. Of the 17 people in intensive care, 13 are unvaccinated, two are partially vaccinated and two are fully vaccinated. A total of 84.7 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 or older are fully vaccinated, up from 84.5 on Thursday, while 92.5 per cent have received at least one dose, up from 92.4. The new cases are spread across six of the seven health regions. The source of all of them remains under investigation. New Brunswick’s active COVID-19 case count continued to climb Friday, reaching 556, after dropping to 521 Tuesday from 589 Monday. (Government of New Brunswick ) Here is the regional breakdown: Moncton region, Zone 1, 17 cases: Eight people 19 or under Two people 20-29 Four people 30-39 A person 40-49 Two people 50-59 Saint John region, Zone 2, 21 cases: 11 people 19 or under A person 20-29 Three people 30-39 A person 40-49 Three people 50-59 Two people 60-69 Fredericton region, Zone 3, three cases: A person 20-29 A person 30-39 A person 60-69 Edmundston region, Zone 4, one case: Campbellton region, Zone 5, one case: Miramichi region, Zone 7, five cases: Two people 20-29 Two people 30-39 A person 40-49 New Brunswick has had 6,380 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 5,709 recoveries so far and 114 COVID-related deaths. A total of 525,445 lab tests had been conducted to date. On Thursday, 6,935 rapid test kits were distributed. Contact tracing continues, despite surge in cases Public Health continues to contact trace, despite the surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, says the chief medical officer of health. “Obviously, the higher the case count, the more difficult the contact tracing becomes, but the contact tracing is still occurring and we’ve utilized many extra resources to make that happen,” Dr. Jennifer Russell said Thursday, without elaborating. On Friday, Department of Health spokesperson Gail Harding told CBC News, “In order to meet the demand of the fourth wave of COVID-19, additional interviewers were hired while Public Health inspectors for case and contact tracing activities continued to support efforts.” “In addition, Outbound Call Centre (OCC) nurses remain available to assist with contact tracing activities as an added layer of support,” she said in an emailed statement. Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said people need to be aware that community transmission is occurring. (Ed Hunter/CBC) Public Health is trying to determine the source of an all-time high of 2,631 cases, according to the COVID-19 dashboard Friday. Just over three weeks ago, that number stood at 1,183 cases. In June, just 326 cases were unresolved. Some provinces gave up contact tracing when case counts got too high to keep up. Some of the New Brunswick cases still under investigation have already recovered, noted Russell. Some of them date back to August, Harding confirmed. A change in process has contributed to the growing list, department spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane has previously said. To expedite case notification, “calls are being used to notify contacts to isolate within 24 hours with contact tracing personnel following up [at] a later date to investigate,” he said. Among the cases listed as under investigation, about 35 per cent are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, 23 per cent in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, and 17 per cent in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, department figures show. “A large portion of the ongoing investigations are difficult to determine the exact exposure that resulted in transmission for numerous reasons such as lack of information provided by the case,” said Harding. “The lack of information makes it difficult for Public Health to determine the true risk of transmission within the community,” she said. “However, community transmission has been identified in all regions of the province within the most recent wave of the pandemic.” Russell said people need to be aware community transmission is occurring. She urges everyone to get vaccinated and follow Public Health measures, whether they live in a circuit-breaker zone or not. The origin of 2,631 COVID-19 cases remains under investigation. The others have been deemed either close contacts, travel-related or community transmission. (Government of New Brunswick) Since the beginning of the pandemic, 83 cases have been attributed to community transmission. Close contacts have been deemed the source of 3,048 cases and 618 cases have been travel-related. Public Health has reviewed more than 1,000 cases in the past week and the COVID dashboard will be updated Monday, said Harding. “Public Health is working towards identifying the most likely source of exposure for all cases and will keep N.B. updated when information has been validated,” she said. New rules for youth to enter Nova Scotia Starting Nov. 1, travellers aged 12 to 18 entering Nova Scotia will have to follow self-isolation requirements based on their own COVID-19 vaccination status. Since June, youth in this age group have had to follow the rules of the least-vaccinated adult they were travelling with. The change means every youth aged 12 and older must have their own Nova Scotia safe check-in form. An adult can fill out the form on their child’s behalf. People who aren’t fully vaccinated must isolate for seven days and get two negative COVID-19 test results in Nova Scotia before they can stop isolating. The tests must be lab-based, not rapid ones. Children 11 and under will continue to isolate according to the least-vaccinated adult they’re with and can be included on the safe check-in form of that adult. New cases at 2 schools, 1 child-care facility Three cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at two schools in the Saint John region, Zone 2, including one that was not previously impacted, the COVID dashboard shows. A positive case or cases have been identified at Island View School for the first time, as well as Simonds High School. Thirty-two schools are currently impacted. The number of cases at each school is not provided by Public Health or the Department of Education. A total of 404 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at 111 schools since the beginning of the school year. A case of COVID-19 has also been confirmed at St. Joseph’s Community Preschool and Afterschool Program in the Saint John region, Zone 2, Public Health said in a news release. People who have been in close contact with a case will be notified directly by Public Health or the facility for contact tracing, according to the release. Sixty early learning and child-care facilities have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Sept. 7. The total number of cases has not been provided. Atlantic COVID roundup Nova Scotia reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and has 169 active cases. Ten people are hospitalized because of the virus, including one in intensive care. Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed eight new cases, putting its active case count at 99. One person is in hospital. Prince Edward Island reported two new cases Wednesday, marking the only active cases on the Island.  Public exposure notices Public Health added new public exposure notices Friday, including both hospitals in Saint John, Zone 2. For the full list of new and previous public exposure notices, please visit the government of New Brunswick’s website. Public Health recommends that people who have not been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure get a COVID test, even if they don’t have symptoms. They can book an appointment online or call Tele-Care 811. If they do have symptoms, they must isolate while they await their results. It can take up to 14 days to test positive after being exposed to COVID-19 so even if their results comes back negative, they should continue to self-monitor for any symptoms and get tested immediately if any develop. They should also avoid visiting settings with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes, correctional facilities and shelters during that 14-day period. For people who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure, Public Health recommends they monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the possible exposure and get a COVID test if symptoms develop. They do not need to isolate while they wait for their test results. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue, and difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should stay at home, call 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.



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